China Eastern airline to sign off on three Cairns-Shanghai flights per week
LEADING Chinese airline China Eastern is expected to start three weekly direct flights between Shanghai and Cairns later this year.
An announcement is pending but The Cairns Post understands there will be three flights a week, to start in four months.
State Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey is expected to make an announcement with airline officials on Wednesday next week when she and Treasurer Tim Nicholls are in China as part of a trade mission.
The Government has used part of its $8 million aviation attraction fund to entice the airline.
Last night, the Government and Cairns Airport remained tightlipped on the flights.
A spokeswoman for Ms Stuckey said the Government was "delighted that negotiations have been progressing well with China Eastern towards commencing direct flights from mainland China to Cairns".
The Queensland Government is continuing to work closely with all partners involved to encourage this type of new airline route," she said.
An airport spokeswoman said there was nothing she could say at this stage.
The flights and the passengers they will bring are estimated to inject an extra $35 million a year into the region’s economy and create 386 jobs in Cairns.
The start of the flights coincide with the peak Chinese travel season between November and March and include the popular Chinese New Year.
Cairns Airport has been negotiating with China Eastern as well as China Southern Airways which has already confirmed it will fly to Cairns by 2015.
Airport chief executive officer Kevin Brown has said with growth in Chinese visitors of 39 per cent in the past year without a direct service from mainland China, the airport had high hopes for even higher growth levels once direct services were established.
Mr Brown and aviation business development general manager Robert Evans were in Shanghai earlier last month for talks with China Eastern as well as China Southern.
It is believed China Eastern chairman Liu Shaoyang also met Tourism Australia chairman Geoff Dixon and chief executive Andrew McEvoy at the same time.
Tourism operators say Chinese travellers want to come direct to Cairns to primarily visit the Reef.
The travellers say it would cut 20 hours off the journey with the direct flights estimated to take 10 hours instead of 30 via southern gateways.
The airport is also advanced on negotiations for direct links to Singapore, believed to be with Jetstar, which currently operates an indirect service via Darwin.
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Take-off China Eastern airlines is expected to start three weekly direct flights between Shanghai and Cairns.